Chicago Sun-Times
Stray Casts will intelligently report and observe, hopefully with a touch of wit, on daily occurrences, reports and releases related to Chicago-area outdoors from bucks to bass to birds to bugs

Updated Wild Sunday (lakefront otters and eagle cam) 5-11-08

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Is it an otter or a beaver?


John Vician, an experienced outdoorsman from the Northwest Side, sent this photo taken ``at the lakefront in 2006 at Henrys fall salmon derby.''

I've seen a good number of wild otters and beavers swimming in my life, but I can't say positively whether or not it is an otter, even after blowing up the photo. Vician originally labeled the photo a beaver, but had been rethinking that.

However, naturalist Joel Greenberg, author of A Natural History of the Chicago Region, did me a favor and looked at the photo. He said the head was too broad for an otter.

In late April David W. Ruiz reported an otter at Northly Island. They have been sighted in Chicago's rivers for several years, but lakefront reports have been sketchier. Now James Fernandez reported seeing one last year just south of the Museum of Science and Industry.

Eagle cams have been around for awhile. Illinois now has one at Coffeen Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area in Montgomery County. Just go to You can watch the bald eagle family daily between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily.

Because I am curious about stuff like lakefront otters I am trying to track any earlier reports for the lakefront. If you have one, please email me at

Nearly everybody is old enough to remember when otters did not exist in Illinois. Reintroduction only began in 1994, and the current Illinois population is estimated greater than 10,000.

It's one of the amazing recoveries in the natural world.

Of course, the recovery of bald eagles has been even more stunning on a broader scale.

I'm old enough to remember when eagles were nearly wiped out in the 1960s. Now they're sighted on every river basin in the Chicago area and there's even several nesting pairs within the nine-county Chicago area.

Pasted below is the entire IDNR press release on the Coffeen Lake eagles.

Eagle Cam at Coffeen Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area

IDNR and Ameren team up to provide community with live pictures of bald eagle’s nest

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, IL – A recent discovery of a family of eagles nesting at Coffeen Lake State Fish and Wildlife area – near Ameren Energy Generating Company’s Coffeen Power Station – has prompted the installation of a live camera to monitor the nest and allow anyone with web access to watch the action.

This is the second straight year that the bald eagles have nested at the site. Last year, they successfully fledged two eaglets. This year, they are currently raising two eaglets that should fledge within the next few weeks.

The Coffeen Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area (SFWA) is home to a number of native wildlife species, including the nesting pair of bald eagles. The 3,145-acre site is located in Montgomery County, Illinois. The site is comprised of lands owned by the Ameren Energy Generating Company and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). The centerpiece of the site is the 1,100-acre cooling lake for the Ameren’s coal fired Coffeen Power Station.

A donation from Ameren provided for installation of an “eagle cam” to share the eagles’ nesting activity with the public. The eagle cam can be viewed daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. by visiting Ameren’s website at and following the links to the live eagle cam.

Coffeen Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area is open to the public for hunting, fishing, picnicking and other activities. For more information on recreational activities at the site, contact the site office at 217-537-3351 or visit the IDNR web site at

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This page contains a single entry by Dale Bowman published on May 11, 2008 4:42 PM.

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